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355 PERSIA-CIVIL AND MILITARY ANNALS.

sonated Smerdis must be an impostor; but he could not be denounced as such without

betraying the crime of the king. Even should Cambyses now proclaim the truth, he would not

be believed; for his assertion would be accepted as the fiction and lie of a falling

coward. It was suggested by Prexaspes that the impostor was a certain Gomates, a Magus, to

whose brother Cambyses, in departing for Egypt, had committed the government of his

palace-and this conjecture proved to be correct. In the sore distress and desperation of

the case, the Persian king) with the rash impetuosity of his nature, determined to put

himself beyond the reach of conspirators. He drew his sword and plunged it into his side.

The wound was mortal, and in a few days he expired. The silent Nemesis had settled her

account.

The character of Cambyses is strongly contrasted with that of his father. The latter

preserved to his death the confidence of his army and country. The former was never

entirely secure with either. His unsuccessful campaigns in Africa tarnished his reputation

as a general, and the loyalty of his troops in the hour of the great crisis may well be

doubted. He was subject to extremes of passion, and when aroused was capable of any

cruelty. In his private life he is represented to have been of a cold and haughty temper,

little conducive of personal esteem. His name, moreover, is stained with the practice of

revolting vices and the perpetration of dark crimes. Under the influence of a vile passion

he married his own sister, and he procured his brother's assassination. In the Persian

inscriptions he. is described by epithets indicating the low esteem in which he was held

by his countrymen. Nor were the Greek historians more careful of his memory. He remained

true to the national religion, and it is believed that an element in his despair was the

belief that both his army and his countrymen at large were infected with the vices of

Magism to the extent of making hopeless any struggle which he might make to dethrone the

usurper Gomates. To the impostor the death of the king was

so far all that could be desired. That event freed himself from the greatest, but not the

only, peril which confronted him. He still had a difficult and dangerous part to play.

There was the liability to detection. There were his mutilated ears; for Cyrus the Great

had cut off those members for the perpetration of a crime. There was the religious

imbroglio; for he was the tool of the Magians, who through him hoped to secure in Persia,

as they had done in Media, the establishment of a system in which there was some chance

for a priesthood to display itself. This feature of the usurpation had to be kept well in

the background, both by the managers and the beneficiary; for it was not safe for either

to do more than chuckle in private over the prospect of a religious revolution.

Gomates and his Magian counselors began their government by issuing edicts for the

remission of all tributes and military service for the space of three years. These were

measures calculated to give great satisfaction, especially in the provinces, where the

danger of insurrection was to be most apprehended. As a second step in the direction of

allaying discontent, the PSEUDO-SMERDIS-for by that name is he generally known-took to

wife all the widows of Cambyses. This was a popular but dangerous proceeding, for some of

these ex-wives of the late king -certainly Atossa-were acquainted with the real Smerdis,

and might therefore be expected to reveal the imposture. To prevent this a new rule was

adopted for the harem by which the inmates, who had hitherto associated freely within the

Gynaeceum, were now isolated, each being strictly ordered to remain in her own apartments.

All communication, both within and without, was, as to the women of the seraglio,

positively interdicted. By these measures the conspirators hoped to trammel up the

consequences of the audacious business which they had in hand.

It is, however, in the nature of crime to betray itself. Brief immunity gives a longer

rein. Gomates, encouraged by temporary success and instigated by the impatient Magians,

soon set about the